Culture Change

During my time in the Navy we were going through a period of Culture Change. We wanted to shift away from the mentalities of old, the drinking, the boys club, the bastardisation and the initiation nonsense and move into a tolerant, caring and supportive environment. It was met with resistance, people were claiming it was turning the Navy soft, it was bowing down to the masses, but the Admiralty persevered. To the betterment of the Australian Navy as we know it.

Culture change in any organisation, whether five people or 35,000 people is difficult. It takes determination, resolve and broad shoulders to deal with the comments that will inevitably head in your direction. If you have ever been part of culture change, whether the instigator, a staff member, or new to the workplace, you know how hard it can be to stay out of the political arguments, and get down to the job of moving forward.

I want to discuss with everyone three easy ways to support and effect culture change from the bottom up. I will address Acceptance, Rebellion and Action, and your part in it.


The hardest part about culture change is accepting it yourself. You may find that you have been with a company or organisation for years and don’t see why something needs to change. Or you might have just joined the organisation and don’t know anything other than the new culture, and therefore can’t understand why there is such resistance. In either case, you need to do one of two things, accept it and embrace it, or reject it and leave.

It may seem a bit black and white, and that’s because it is. If you imagine the organisation is a fleet of ships, culture change is a course correction in a particular direction, to avoid danger, make the fleet more efficient or simply to change the destination. Now if everyone who is a part of the organisation is a ship, they should all turn together and the fleet can keep sailing, acceptance. But if everyone doesn’t agree, doesn’t leave the fleet, and does their own thing, the fleet falls apart, and can’t reach its destination.


So as a member of this fleet, your acceptance can be the first step to the culture taking hold and becoming a reality, as a fleet does not simply turn on the spot but makes a large sweeping turn, gradually.


Rebellion does not mean against the cultural shift, it means to rebel against mediocrity. The issue with some staff who resist culture change is the idea of Its always been that way or Thats the way we have always done it. If that mentality was accepted we would still be in a cave somewhere hitting each other with rocks.


It is your job as a member of the organisation to stomp out mediocrity and strive for excellence, push back on the ideas of old and embrace the changes that are to come. If you can’t rebel against the status quo then maybe its time to look elsewhere for you vocation.


This is probably the most important part of Culture Change from the perspective of the member, employee or otherwise, Action. The actual doing and implementation of the Culture Change. It is probably also the hardest to achieve, as old habits die hard, and it can be difficult to stop doing things the way you always have.

At the beginning I mentioned the Culture Change the Navy was going through; New Generation Navy (NGN) the called it. We where lucky enough to join the Navy as the rollout was occurring so for me and my classmates, we were the Next Generation. We had the easy job of simply accepting what was placed before us and moving on.

For others this wasn’t so easy, there were Navy members who had served for 20 and 30 years, they had grown up with the Values the Navy had laid before them, and some of them felt that they were being asked to ditch all of that and start again. There was some resistance. But as the Next Generation coming through we endeavoured to show that the new way was for the greater good, that supporting our younger generation, the ones who are learning, who are just starting out, does actually create a better Sailor or Officer in the end, and that belittling and victimising simply alienates and creates divide.

The Navy had a long way to go when I left, but it is a very large fleet to turn, and it continues on its course change right now.


I know that the medical field, Doctors, Nurses, and the entire Multidisciplinary team are currently trying to change the way we deal with each other, our students and our patients. I will be joining in at the start of another Culture Change, and the only idea of the old ways I will have are the stories of those who have been living it for 30 or 40 years. Again, it will fall to those coming through the system now; the new Enrolled Nurses, the Graduate Registered Nurses, the Registrars and Resident Doctors, it will be our job to make sure our professions move forward and don’t stagnate.

Together we can change our Worlds for the better.

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld


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